You've Been Downsized ... Now What?

Sept. 6, 2011
Sleeping in, eating Cheerios on the couch and watching "Dr. Phil" -- not the answer.

After years of working hard and paying your dues, you've climbed the ranks to a management position.

You've been devoted to your job and loyal to your company.

And now you've been downsized.

In this environment of corporate cost cutting, downsizing has become a fact of life for many manufacturing managers. But knowing that thousands of others are in your same shoes only provides so much comfort -- especially when you have a family to support.

So now what?

For starters, it's important to step back and "sort things out in your mind," says training and employment consultant Bonnie Dick.

"Losing a job is like getting a divorce or losing a loved one," says Dick. "It's very dramatic, and it takes you back. ... So it's really important to take some time to shake yourself off a little bit."

From there, the survival strategy includes formulating a plan, sticking to a routine and -- perhaps most importantly -- engaging in activities that boost your self-esteem, which can take a hit from being downsized.

"Sometimes people are a little embarrassed about losing their position," Dick says. "But in this day and age, I don't know anybody in my social circles that has not been downsized at least once or even twice."

Write it Down

One of the first things you should do is come up with a financial plan, Dick says.

That means looking at your expenses, your savings, your severance package -- and, most likely, ways you can cut costs.

"Look at all the ways that you can stretch your dollar. Develop a monthly budget, use coupons and destination-shop. I always tell my women friends to stay out of the malls."

Likewise, you should come up with a job-search strategy.

A few questions you should ask yourself:

  • How am I going to market myself?
  • How am I going to spread the word that I'm back in the job market? (Dick recommends making a list of everyone you know.)
  • What skills do I have to offer? Do any of them need to be updated? (If so, this is a good time to take a course.)
  • Where's my passion? (If you were unhappy in your career before, this is the perfect time to shift gears.)
To implement your strategy, you should have a prioritized daily to-do list and a weekly action plan, Dick recommends.

Your strategy also should include some "mini goals," such as attending two networking meetings per week.

Dick says she uses Friday as her "look-back day" to review what she did -- and didn't -- accomplish that week.

Your plan should work for you, and reflect your "personal style," of course. The important thing is to keep it simple -- and to write it down.

"I don't just want it in your head," she says. "This helps keep you accountable, and allows you to review what you've been successful in, and maybe what needs to be carried over into the next week."

One last thing: She is a firm believer that job seekers need to reward themselves when they attain some of their goals. So when you meet your goal of sending out four resums or attending two job fairs, treat yourself to that hot fudge sundae.

"That's also a nice way to keep your self-esteem up," she says.

Stick to a Routine

After years -- maybe even decades -- of having a regimented schedule that's built around your job, it's easy to fall into the trap of sleeping in a little later when you've been downsized.

For some, that can spiral into long stretches of time on the couch, and possibly even an addiction to "Dr. Phil."

All kidding aside, you should try to keep your days as structured as possible, Dick says, and spend a minimum of 30 to 40 hours per week on job-search activities.

"Job search is your job," she says.

That doesn't mean job search is a 24/7 operation. Dick advises her clients to limit their job-search activities to Monday through Friday.

"Saturday and Sunday are your family days," she says. "That's not to say that you couldn't look at an ad in the classifieds on Sunday afternoon or look online for a little bit. But you should really zero in on doing the same kind of routine that you did when you were actively working."

It's not uncommon to experience some depression after being downsized. That's why part of having a routine should include developing positive habits that help boost your self-esteem.

"Attitude is everything, and in order to keep a positive attitude you have to take a few walks, and you have to pump some iron every now and then," she says.

Although she admits it might sound a little "hokey," Dick also recommends taping an uplifting poem or words of inspiration to your mirror to give you a daily dose of positive thoughts.

"Job searches are draining, both physically and emotionally," she says. "So you really need to speak well, not only about yourself but to yourself."

Know How to Network

By now you've probably heard or read that the vast majority of job seekers find new positions by way of networking.

What you might not have heard is that there's a right way and a wrong way to network.

"Networking is important, but most people don't know how to network effectively," Dick says.

Networking, she explains, is not asking someone for a job. It's about "gathering information, or some career advice."

"You need to know the heartbeat of these companies, what's happening inside," Dick says. "So why not set up an informational meeting with someone who you'd like to get to know better? Not to ask them for the job, but to ask them about their industry."

Networking, however, "is a give-and-take situation." You need to show up with some questions, of course, but "you're going to bring some information for that person as well."

"A lot of job seekers who are out of work feel that they don't have anything to contribute. They do," Dick asserts. "Just because you lost your job doesn't mean you lost your knowledge."

Finally, a word about social networking tools such as LinkedIn: Use them.

"I always encourage people, especially management-level people, that they have to be on LinkedIn," Dick says. " ... It's a great way to hook up and find opportunities, and get information."

Get Out There, Get Involved

In this economy, it can take six months to a year to find a new job, maybe longer. That's no fault of yours. But the cruel irony is some employers might look at the gap in your resume and ask, "What have you been doing with yourself?"

Dick urges job seekers to stay connected to the business community by having lunch with former co-workers and perhaps joining a professional organization.

She also encourages job seekers to volunteer.

"Volunteering not only gives you an opportunity to meet other people, but it also keeps you busy and it's rewarding," she says, adding that volunteering helps build your self-worth, and yes, it looks good on your resum.

Finally, if you come across an opportunity to take a contract position or part-time job -- take it.

"It shows people that you've been doing something, that you're not sitting in front of the television watching 'Oprah.'"

About the Author

Josh Cable | Former Senior Editor

Former Senior Editor Josh Cable covered innovation issues -- including trends and best practices in R&D, process improvement and product development. He also reported on the best practices of the most successful companies and executives in the world of transportation manufacturing, which encompasses the aerospace, automotive, rail and shipbuilding sectors. 

Josh also led the IndustryWeek Manufacturing Hall of Fame, IW’s annual tribute to the most influential executives and thought leaders in U.S. manufacturing history.

Before joining IndustryWeek, Josh was the editor-in-chief of Penton Media’s Government Product News and Government Procurement. He also was an award-winning beat reporter for several small newspapers in Northeast Ohio.

Josh received his BFA in creative writing from Bowling Green University, and continued his professional development through course-work at Ohio University and Cuyahoga Community College.

A lifelong resident of the Buckeye State, Josh currently lives in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland. When the weather cooperates, you’ll find him riding his bike to work, exercising his green thumb in the backyard or playing ultimate Frisbee.  

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!